Saturday, December 29, 2007

John Flavel

I’ve begun reading the Works of John Flavel. They were recommended to me by Pastor Cliffe Boone, of Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship Church, who is working on his doctorate on the relationship between Flavel’s preaching and the Reformed belief in the effectual call.

The following was said of Flavel in the introduction given on his life:

“He was a zealous preacher, in the pulpit, but a sincere Christian in the closet, frequent in self-examination, as well as in pressing it upon others; being afraid, lest while he preached to others he himself should be cast-away…[followed by a lengthy transcription from Flavel’s own diary]…He preached what he felt, what he had handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life, and they felt it also. We may guess what a sweat and blessed intercourse he had with heaven…He was a mighty wrestler with God in secret prayer, and particularly begged of him to crown his sermons, printed books, and private discourses, with the conversion of poor sinners, a work which his heart was much set upon. It pleased God to answer him by many instances…” [Flavel, Work, vol 1, p. x, xii].

The author goes on to tell of how Flavel counseled and saw the subsequent conversion of a man who failed in a suicide attempt.

Listen to how Flavel himself begins the dedicatory section of “The Fountain of Life”:

“If my pen were both able, and at leisure, to get glory in paper, it would be but a paper glory when I have gotten it; but if by displaying (which is the design of these papers) the transcendent excellency of Jesus Christ, I may win glory to him from you, to whom I humbly offer them, or from any other into whose hands providence shall cast them, that will be glory indeed, and an occasion of glorifying God to all eternity.” [Vol 1, xvii]

What a strange thought to think that in this general prayer, Flavel prayed from me a reader in the 21st century, even though he could not, I’m sure, fathom who fair God’s providence would take his work.

“But let me tell you, the whole world is not a theatre enough to shew [sic] the glory of Christ upon or unfold the one half of the unsearchable riches that lie hid in him. These things will be far better understood, and spoken of in heaven, by the noon-day divinity, in which the immediately illuminated assembly do there preach his praises, than by such a stammering tongue, and scribbling pen as mine, which doth but mar them. Alas! I write his praises by moon-light; I cannot praise him so much as by halves. Indeed, no tongue but his own (as Nazianzen said of Bazil) is sufficient to undertake the task. What shall I say of Christ? The excelling glory of that object dazzles all apprehension, swallows all expression. When we have borrowed metaphors from every creature that hath any excellency of lovely property in it, till we have script the whole creation bare of all its ornaments, and clothed Christ with all that glory; when we have even worn out our tongues, in ascribing praises to him, alas! We have done nothing, when all is done.” [Flavel, Work, vol 1, xviii]

Sort of give you goose-bumps.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sola Fide

Several weeks ago I read John Piper's new book
The Future of Justification.

It is well worth the read. I am not going to give a real review of the book here. However, I want to highlight two distinctions that we need to keep with respect to justification by faith.

1) We are not saved by believing in justification by faith alone.

Justification by faith alone is true and is in Scripture. However, the right understanding of the formula is not what saves us, rather we are saved by placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. We are not saved by our doctrinal precision and our orthodox statements of the creeds but rather by putting our faith and trust in the person they testify too. That being said, Scripture is quite clear that if you do not believe Jesus is truly God and that Jesus came in the flesh, you are an anti-Christ and not saved (John 8:24; 2 John 1:7). But with respect to justification by faith, we are not saved by putting our faith in justification by faith alone. Justification by faith alone is a description of what happens when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. Piper quotes Owen and Edwards on pages 24-25.

Doug Wilson (who is in his own controversies with his Federal Vision views) says the following:
We are saved by the grace of God in Christ, plus nothing. The more clearly that grace is preached in its purity, the more potent it is -- how shall they hear without a preacher? -- but to make a certain accomplishment in the sinner a precondition for his justification is the work of Old Slewfoot.

Think of this way. Which work must a man do before he can be truly justified?
1. Walk to the Vatican on his knees;
2. Obey the Ten Commandments for a year;
3. Stay faithful to his wife;
4. Deny semi-Pelagianism;
5. None of the above.

The answer is obviously the last one. A man must believe in Jesus, but his faith -- provided it is a genuine and God-given faith, a living faith, the only kind God gives -- can have all kinds of screwed up features. A man must believe in Jesus, which is not the same thing as affirming what believing in Jesus means, with the right level of doctrinal precision. To quote Piper, quoting Edwards and Owen respectively . . .
"How far a wonderful and mysterious agency of God's Spirit may so influence some men's hearts, that their practice in this regard may be contrary to their own principles, sxo that they shall not trust in their own righteousness, though they profess that men are justified by their own righteousness" (p. 24).
"Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny, and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which in opinion they deny to be imputed."
Piper points out, rightly, that this should not "make us cavalier" about guarding the purity of the gospel, but rather it is simply the recognition "that men's hearts are often better than their heads" (pp. 24-25). Men are often better Christians than they are logicians. There is a vast chasm between maintaining, as I do, that semi-Pelagians (and Pelagians too, for that matter) can be saved, and maintaining, which I do not, that semi-Pelagianism saves.

2) If we are trusting in something other than Christ for our salvation we are denying the gospel.

This is basically Paul's argument with the Galatians. They were turning aside from the gospel to trust in works of the Law to secure their ongoing status as part of the people of God. While we are not saved our doctrinal precision on the imputed righteousness of Christ, we are nevertheless saved by Christ's imputed righteousness.

If someone directs our attention away from trusting in Christ and their gospel teaching us to rely on some other means of mediating grace to us--then this is a false gospel.

As Christians, we should seek doctrinal purity and a clear unadulterated preaching of the gospel of justification by faith alone. We need to avoid judgmentalism against people who may not be as doctrinal precise as us--this is particularly true of new believers. Nevertheless, we should contend for the faith. There are people who deny the gospel with their head and their heart and are unsaved--they preach a false gospel. Then there are people who are real Christians who muddle their thinking about the gospel and their words are inaccurate or inprecise or even wrong when it their understanding of the transaction nevertheless they themselves are trusting in Jesus Christ.

As Edwards says "how far some may seem to maintain a doctrine contrary to this gospel-doctrine of justifciation, that really do not, but only express themselves differently from others; or seem to oppose it through their minuderstanding of our expressions, or we of theirs, when indeed our real sentiments are the same in the main--or may seem to differ more than they do, by using terms that are without precisely fixed and determinate meaning--or to be wide in their sentiments from this doctrine, for want of a distinct understanding of it; whose hearts, at the same time, entirely agreed with it, and if once it was clearly explained to their understandings, would immediately close with it, and embrace it." Nevertheless Edwards does say that teaching these things is "of a pernicious and fatal tendency." (Qtd. The Future of Justification, p. 24, n.30).

Yet we should not forget Paul's confrontation of Peter:

Galatians 2:11-14 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?"

Here Peter's actions stood contrary of justification by faith alone as he treated Gentiles as second class citizens because they were not circumcised. His action marked him as 'standing condemned'. Here was no minor imprecision of language but rather Peter was saying by his actions that faith in Jesus Christ is insufficient to make one a child of God. This false gospel was to be oppossed.

While we should press for precision in words and language in theological controversy, we should recognize that sometimes a person is trusting wholly in Christ but does not articulate it well or in according with the history of the church. Other times, as in the case of Peter and the circumcision party, the people know full well what they are saying and doing and their words and actions make clear that they are not trusting fully in Christ. While we can never in entirity know the condition of a person's heart, their expressions and actions do give us glimpses.

Sometimes we need plain and simple wisdom: is the person a immature Christian who does not understand all that Christ has done in the gospel for them? Then they need careful and patient instruction. Then there are the people like the Peter's and the circumcision parties, they were not theological ninnies, they know full well what they were doing and denying. Sometimes you have to unload the heresy canon on them and "oppose them to their face".


In short, the requirement for salvation is not sola fide, (belief in Justification by faith alone) rather salvation is found in putting faith alone in Jesus Christ.

This should not excuse sloppy theology. Rather it should inspire us to deeper seeking of the clarity in God's Word. It should cause me to probe my own heart: do I trust Christ or am I inserting something else. Am I trusting in Christ or a statement of faith? We are not saved by 'faith in faith'--which is all too common among 'religious', 'spiritual people' and even 'evangelicals'.

Nevertheless, we should contend for the faith and seek to proclaim an unadulterated gospel so that those who are muddled in their thinking might be presented the refreshing waters of Christ and Him crucifed so they might clearly know that salvation comes by putting trust in Him alone.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Baptists On the Covenant

I found this quote:
C. H. Spurgeon pointedly said, “The doctrine of the Covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scriptures are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and the covenants of grace. May God grant us now the power to instruct and you the grace to receive instruction on this vital subject.”

Also take a look at John Gill on the Covenant:

Here is an overview of Covenant theology with a longer list of Baptists (in history and contemporary) who are Covenant Theologians.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Doctrine of the Covenant in Baptist Life

What doth Covenant have to do with the Baptist?

Never the two shall meet? It is often supposed that Baptist theology and covenant theology are somewhat if not entirely antithetical to each other. This is often because covenant theology leads most naturally in Presbyterian and Reformed circles to infant baptism. It is then supposed that if one believes in credo-baptism by extension one will reject the notion of a covenant of grace.

Almost all acknowledge that there are covenants in the Bible. Even the dispensational understands that there are covenants like Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenant. The question is: is there a singular covenant structure through the Scriptures. Particularly centered around a two-Adam Christology, is there first a covenant of works and then a covenant of redemption that undergirds the various covenantal structures through the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenant. It is this structure that some find so antithetical to Baptist theology. After all, this covenant structure is what lends the Presbyterian to see circumcision replaced by baptism and thus make warrant for baptizing infants.

Where did Covenants go? Add to this the rise of dispensationalism within fundamentalism Baptist life, wanning historical awareness and an overall lessoning of the sovereignty of grace in evangelicalism and you have a sort of perfect storm. It becomes too easy for some to make the leaping assumption that covenatalism and Baptist theology cannot be brought together. It makes for an oddity for someone like me seeks to hold to a covenantal structure within a clearly delineated belief in credo-baptism. Ironically this perfect storm will encounter its rock of Gibraltar—Baptist history.

Contrary to the perfect storm, Covenant theology was important in Baptist History:

First, in the London Baptist Confession of 1644 we read:

Chapter X: Touching his Office, Jesus Christ only is made the Mediator of the new Covenant, even the everlasting Covenant of grace between God and Man to be perfectly and full the Prophet, Priest and King of the Church of God for evermore.

Chapter XII: In this Call the Scripture holds forth two special things considerable; first, the call to the Office; secondly, the Office it self. First, that none takes this honour but he that is called of God, as was Aason, so also Christ, it being an action especially of God the Father, whereby a special covenant being made, he ordaines his Son to this office: which Covenant is, that Christ should be made a Sacrifice for sin, that he shall see his seed, and prolong his days with the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper his hand; which calling therefore contains in itself choosing, foreordaining, sending. Choosing respects the end, foreordaining the means, sending the execution itself all of mere grace, without any condition foreseen either in men, or in Christ himself.

Note the covenant structure that goes back into the pretemporal covenant between God and Christ. This office that Christ is called to is threefold: Prophet, Priest and King (ch. XIV), the three office that have echoes in Calvin’s articulation.

Chapter XXIX: That all believers are a holy and sanctified people, and that sanctification is a spiritual grace of the new Covenant, and effect of the love of God, manifested to the soul, whereby the believer is in truth and reality separated, both in soul and body, form all sin and dead works, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant, whereby he also presenteth after a heavenly and Evangelical perfection, in obedience to all the Commands, which Christ as head and King in the this New Covenant has prescribed to him.

Second, the Second London Baptist Convention affirms a covenantal structure, particularly in chapter 7. Here the words repeat the Westminster Confession of faith (but omit several sections).

“The distance between God and the Creator is so great, that although reasonable Creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of LIFE, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express, by way of Covenant.”

“Moreover Man having brought himself under the curse of the Law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a Covenant of Grace wherein he freely offereth unto Sinners, Life and Salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them Faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal Life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.”

“This Covenant is revealed in the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of Salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the new Testament; and it is founded in that Eternal Covenant transaction, that was between the Father and the Son about the Redemption of the Elect; and it is alone by the Grace of this Covenant, that all the posterity of fallen Adam, that ever were saved, did obtain life and a blessed immortality; Man, being now utterly uncapable of acceptance with God upon those terms, on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.”

Third, Covenant was important to more than the Particular Baptists. The Orthodox Creed of the General Baptists also affirms a Covenant with Adam before the Fall and a covenant of Grace after the fall (Article XIII & XVI). Even its article of Election, “God the Father gave this his elected and beloved son, for a covenant to the people, and said, that this covenant shall stand fast with him; and his seed shall endure forever” (Article IX). While it fleshes this out without unconditional election, the Confession makes a clear two-Adam Christology centered on the theme—yes—the covenant. The plan between the Father and the Son is nothing less than a “covenant transaction” of eternal election. Even though this confession is not Calvinistic, it still maintains the priority of the Covenant. A first covenant with Adam and a second Covenant of grace mediated through Christ in the gospel. Ironically, most Baptists today, most especially those who are not Calvinistic, reject the notion of the Covenant.

Numerous Baptist Figures Affirmed Covenant Theology.

We will simply highlight a few Baptists who emphasized this covenant structure.

John Spilsbury. Tom Nettles says the following: “Spilsbury's presentation of believer's baptism by immersion of necessity engaged covenantal theology. He approved covenant theology and built his doctrine of the church on the infallible certainty of the eternal covenant of grace; he argued, however, that the spirituality of the new covenant in Christ eliminated the possibility of an infant's participation in it. The issue of the salvation of infants dying in infancy he treated as an area of mystery. One's answer to that question does not affect the revealed qualifications for those who may legitimately receive new covenant ordinances.”

Spilsbury affirms this is his personal confession, which is abbreviated.

And lastly, I do believe that there is an holy and blessed communion of Saints, that God of his grace calls such as belong to life by election, unto the fellowship of his Son by the Gospel, of which matter, God by his word and Spirit joins them together in his Covenant of grace, and so constitutes his Church, as I have before showed: And as God hath thus built for himself an holy habitation of such pure matter, and also after so holy a manner, even so hath he provided a way of preservation and safety for the same;

Benjamin Keach. Tom Nettles has said of the Particular Baptist Benjamin Keach “The covenant and all its accompanying blessings are the driving force in, and give coherence to, Keach’s entire theological scheme” (The Baptists, vol 1; 167) This is the notion of a eternal covenant of peace between God and Christ in eternity past. This covenant manifested and revealed the eternal Trinity. The work of God is nothing less than Covenantal in the sending of the Son and the Spirit we see glimpses into the ontological Trinity.

From J.L. Dagg’s Manual on Theology:



The narrative of the Fall, as given in the book of Genesis, is to be considered, not as a mythical representation, but as proper history. It is always so referred to in subsequent parts of the sacred volume; and its connection with other historical events is such as excludes the supposition, that is was anything else than simple fact.

The revelation of God's will to Adam, as recorded in the book of Genesis, is not there called a covenant; and some have doubted the propriety of using this term to denote it. If the word, in the Scripture use of it, signified, as it does in human transactions, a bargain made between equals, who are independent of each other, we might well reject the application of it to this subject. But in the sacred Scripture, it is used in a more extended signification. It denotes, 1. An immutable ordinance. Under this sense may be included an irrevocable will or testament. 2. A sure and stable promise. 3. A precept. 4. A mutual agreement. With this latitude of meaning, the word must be considered applicable in the present case; yet there would be no necessity to insist on its use, were it not that the Scriptures have used it in this application. See Hosea vi. 7, which may be more properly rendered than in the common version, "They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." So the same Hebrew phrase may be understood in Job xxxi. 33; Ps. lxxxii. 6,7.

As the term covenant is sometimes applied to a free promise, in which no condition is stipulated; it is proper to characterize that which was made with Adam as a covenant of works. It was a law, with a penalty affixed. "Of every tree of the garden, thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." No promise was given, that Adam would continue to enjoy the divine favor if he continued obedient; but this may be understood to be clearly implied.



On a former occasion, it was shown that the Scriptures use the term covenant with great latitude of meaning. The propriety of its use in the present case, cannot well be questioned. We have three divine persons, who are parties in this covenant; and the doctrine of God's unity cannot exclude the notion of a covenant, without, at the same time, excluding the distinction of persons in the Godhead. We are not to imagine, as included in this covenant transaction, a proposal of terms by one party, and a deliberation, followed with an acceptance or rejection of them, by the other parties. These things occur, in the making of human covenants, because of the imperfection of the parties. In condescension to our weakness, the Scriptures use language taken from the affairs of men. They speak as if a formal proposal had been made, at the creation of man, addressed by one of the parties to the others: "Let us make man:" but this is in accommodation to our modes of conception. An agreement and co-operation of the divine persons, in the creation of man, is what is taught in this passage. This agreement and co-operation extend to all the works of God: "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his will." The idea of counsel in all these works, accords with that of consultation which is presented in the account of man's creation. In every work of God, the divine persons must either agree or disagree. As they alike possess infinite wisdom, disagreement among them is impossible. The salvation of men is a work of God, in which the divine persons concur. It is performed according to an eternal purpose; and in this purpose, as well as in the work, the divine persons concur; and this concurrence is their eternal covenant. The purpose of the one God, is the covenant of the Trinity…

That the covenant is eternal, may be argued from the eternity, unchangeableness, and omniscience of the parties, and from the declarations of Scripture which directly or indirectly relate to it: "Through the blood of the everlasting covenant." "His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus." "In hope of eternal life promised before the world began." "Grace given in Christ Jesus before the world began."…

According to the covenant arrangement, the Son appeared in human nature, in the form of a servant; and, after obeying unto death, was exalted by the Father to supreme dominion. The Holy Spirit also is revealed as acting in a subordinate office; but appears as sustaining the full authority of the Godhead, sending the Son, giving him a people to be redeemed, prescribing the terms, accepting the service, rewarding and glorifying the Son, and sending the Holy Spirit…

Dagg of course fleshes this out more, but it is clearly a covenant structure. We have a covenant between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the world. We have pre-fall covenant of works, followed by the revelation of the covenant of grace in Genesis 3:15.

James Boyce, the founder of Southern Baptist Seminary, also has a covenant structure to his theology. From his Abstract of Systematic Theology:


The fall of Man occurred when he was on probation under the Covenant of works.

Theologians are accustomed to speak of two especial covenants, the one of works, the other of grace. These do not embrace all the covenants between God and man, which indeed have been very numerous. The others most prominently mentioned in the Scriptures are that with Noah, Gen. 9:11-17; with Abraham, Gen. 17:2-14; (repeated to Isaac, Gen. 26:2-5; and to Jacob, Gen. 28:13-15;) with Israel in giving the law, Ex. 24:7; Deut. 5:2, 3; with Moses and Israel, Ex. 34: 27; with David, 2 Sam. 7: 1~16; with Solomon, 2 Chron. 7: 1~22; and that of Nehemiah and the Israelites with God, Neh. 9: 38 to 10: 39. The two covenants of works and grace are spoken of in Gal. 4: 2~31, and are called "the two covenants" in verse 24. That of grace is the covenant of redemption made by God with his elect, or more properly with Christ, the second Adam, as their representative. That of works, is the covenant of the law entered into between God and all mankind through the first Adam, their natural head and appropriate and appointed representative….

This is the ideal form of a covenant. Some parts of it may he wanting, and still it may he a covenant. Thus there may be penalties and no reward, or reward and no penalties. Also, the agreement may arise, not from mutual consultation, but from a command given and accepted. This may take place at the time it is given, and with the person to whom it is spoken, or the command may be given, or promise made, to be accepted and acted upon by any who may at any time choose. Thus, between a government and its responsible subjects, law becomes a covenant. Rewards also are promised, as for the killing of dangerous or destructive animals, or for the capture of criminals; or threats are uttered, for violation of the rights of others, either as to life, liberty, or property.

Boyce of course says more about the covenant of works, but the basic framework is there. He elaborates more on a clear federal headship of Adam.


THE Scriptures teach that the fall of Adam involved also that of his posterity. In the covenant, under which he sinned, he acted not merely as an individual man, the sole one of his kind, or one isolated from all others of his kind, but, as the head of the race, for his posterity as well as himself. The condition of mankind shows that they have all participated with him in the evils which resulted. The Scriptures teach that this is due, not merely to his natural headship, but to a representative or federal headship, because of which his act of sin may justly be considered as theirs, and they may be treated as though they had themselves done that act, each man for himself…

He closes out this chapter with a clear two-Adam Christology.


It is not inconsistent in the least for the Baptist to affirm a covenantal structure to God’s revelation. The covenant is a concept based upon God’s revelation to us. It is the covenant that unifies all of Scripture. It also moves to a climax as the shadow of the Old Covenant gives way to the New Covenant, the full manifestation of the covenant of grace. Behind of this is the covenant between the Father and the Son to redeem a group of people to themselves. As Christ purchases a people in the fullness of time on the Cross, we also ascends into heaven from where He sends the Spirit to effect the benefits of this covenant.

For those who think that the covenant is strictly a construct of Presbyterianism, one would do well to consider the early Baptists. Our survey is only introductory. Unfortunately, in our day Baptists are less aware of their history then say for example, Presbyterians. In one sense, one could argue that Presbyterian must keep the covenant central to uphold their view of Baptism. One could also point to the high priority of doctrinal fidelity in Calvinistic circles. Nevertheless, this is not excuse for the dismissal of the covenant within Baptist theology. The Church of God, wherever it is found, has the responsibility to preach and proclaim those doctrines contained in the Word of God.

The Covenant is not some doctrinal grid imposed upon Scripture but comes from reading the whole of Scripture in light of the office of Christ and understanding that all of God’s relationships to his people are covenant. If we would see in Scripture the unity of God’s redemptive purposes, along with a exegesis of key texts in the Old Testament, Paul’s two-Adam Christology, and particularly Hebrews—at the end of the day, I am convinced that we find a full-orbed covenantal theology.

Let us hope that in the coming generation of Baptists the covenant fairs better than it has in the most recent generation of Baptists. Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jesus is the Hero of Every Story

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

This Sunday, I preached through the genealogy of Matthew. It was exciting for me because in many ways it was a basic introduction to redemptive history. The passage focuses on Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of Abraham and the Son of David. It is a reminder that Jesus comes to us a fulfills the covenant promises made in Genesis to Abraham and to David in 2 Samuel. It was a great place to go back and review the basic storyline of the Bible.

I am convince that this ‘redemptive historical hermeneutic’ is essential to reading the Bible. As Richard Gaffin Jr. has said "A redemptive-historical orientation is not some kind of dispensable exegetical luxury. At stake is nothing less than the right way of interpreting Scripture" (Redemptive History and Biblical Interpreation, xxi, xxii). Yet this understand of the Bible is not some sort of high-faluting theological technique that is reserved for a few. I firmly believe that this is something that children must learn to understand. Here is an excerpt of what I said in my sermon:

We should rejoice that Jesus fulfills the promises made to Abraham and David. We need to always remember how Jesus is ‘tied-in’ to the story of the Old Testament. We tend to read the Bible by chopping it up into parts. We need to see the whole Bible as one long story of redemption.

1. We tend to read ‘this story’ and ‘that story’ but the stories are all like beads on a string but we never see the string.

2. I recommend to you “The Jesus Story Book Bible: Every Step Whispers His Name”. This is something that children can and must see in the Bible:

“No the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to try to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brace Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is—it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

And this is no ordinary baby. This is the Child on which everything would depend. This is the Child who would one day—but wait. Our Story starts where all good stories start. Right at the very beginning…”
The Jesus Storybook Bible p.17.

One of the ways you can understand this basic connectivity between the stories is read through the Bible in a year. Another thing would be to study how the New Testament uses the Old Testament. If you want to access my sermon, you’ll be able to find it here in a few days. You can all check out some of these books: Vos' Biblical Theology, Bartholomew and Goheen's The Drama of Scripture, Goldsworthy's According to Plan.

Check out this websight resource on Vos and Biblical Theology.

The basic Christological hermeneutic is so basic that a child can understand it. Yet so often we read the Bible story as if it is about me. The reality is, the Bible is not about me, it’s about Jesus—all of it is about Jesus.

My sermon should be online in a couple of days, look here for it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

December 7, 1941

Today is one of those days in history that we should never forget. On December 7, 1941 the Japenese bombed Pearl Harbor. It stirred a sleeping giant and drew America into World War 2. When Pearl Harbor was attack many of our American battleships were lined up on battleship row. If our carries had been in the harbor that day, Japan would have had free reign of the Pacific Ocean and the outcome of the war would almost certainly have been different. Early in the morning, Sunday morning, before many of the men had even gotten out of bed, over the horizon swarmed the Japenese fleet with their piercing stingers. Many of the men who died that day never made it out of bed. Several of the battleships actually tipped over trapping the men below. The merciless steal became their coffins, the bottoms of the battleship were too thick to cut through.

Sadly, today most will probably go through this day at forget what happened all those years ago. This was the 'September 11' of a previous generation, or better September 11 was the Pearl Harbor of our generation.

I have been to the memorial that is built over the hull of the Arizona. It is sobering. You can read the names of the men who died that day. While I was only fourteen when I was there, I can't help but look back now and think some of those guys were my age or younger. Some of them weren't even really men yet. I'm sure many of them anticipated having their whole lives ahead of them, some of them for sure left sweathearts and young children at home. If you ever go to the memorial it is haunting to look down at the rusting steal. You can see drops of oil rising to the surface--tears of the dead they say.

To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be forever a child. -Cicero

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wow, wow, wow

Check this fox news story out. Sherri Shepherd (left) needs to learn a thing or two about history.

Here is a sad commentary of American education:

"Keep in mind that probably when [Epicurus] was around, there was no Jesus Christ stuff going on," co-host Whoopi Goldberg said.
"They still had Christians back then," Shepherd interrupted.
"They had gods," Goldberg said.
"They had Christians," Shepherd insisted. "And they threw 'em to the lions."
"I think this might predate that," Goldberg said.
"I don't think anything predated Christians," Shepherd shot back.

The NY Post continues:

Behar then piped in.
"The Greeks came first, then the Romans, then the Christians," she said.
"Jesus came first, before then," Shepherd said.
"No, not on paper," Goldberg sadly said, meaning the Bible.
Barbara Walters was not there yesterday to see the latest bizarre moment for Shepherd, a 40-year-old comedian and actress who was hired last fall to replace Star Jones on the panel of the morning women's show.
Born in Chicago and raised a Jehovah's Witness, according to reports, she became a born-again Christian after moving to LA.
Last September, after saying she did not believe in evolution, Whoopi asked her rhetorically if also believed the earth was flat.
Taking the question seriously, Shepherd responded: "I don't know."
The following day she said she'd just been flustered by the question and did, indeed, know the earth was round.

Two things:
1) A basic knowledge of history is essential.
2) The article by the NY Post, no doubt seems to imply that those 'silly-born again Christians' are stupid when it comes to their basic history.

We should all know some basic things about history and when Jesus fits into world history. Why? Because if we are going to claim the historical truth of the events, we'd better know about history.

Ironically, Rosie O'Donnell on The View had said at one time about the gospels being written hundreds of years after Jesus and not eyewitness accounts. It appears she does not know any better either.

While Christian's will never be able to curry academic respectability so long as we are preaching the offense of the Cross, we also should work hard at not being idiots with respect to history.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I knew I liked those guys

Carl Trueman has said this recently in an interview about his new book on John Owen.

What relevance might Owen have for the contemporary evangelical church?

He offers a model for doing theology which connects biblical exegesis and systematic theology in a way that respects trajectories of previous theological discussion while at the same time grounding everything in pastoral concerns. He also demonstrates how the doctrine of the Trinity should permeate Christian thinking and devotion. Above all, he understands the holiness of God and shows how theological thinking should proceed in this context.I get so tired of modern evangelical writers, whether biblical or theological, who have no grasp of the holiness of God and who treat scripture just like any old book, theology as a kind of entertaining crossword puzzle, and themselves as God’s gift to the church. God is not mocked, especially by those for whom theology seems to be little more than an idiom for self-promotion and patronizing previous generations. Owen was not a perfect theologian; but he knew the importance of that with which he was dealing, and his own comparative unimportance in the grand scheme of things.

Owen is a tough read. I've read his Communion with God. It is slow going, but now it is out in an abridged version with more modernized English. I've also read parts of Overcoming Sin and Temptation. You should read Owen.

I also have always appreciated what I have read by Trueman. One should read his regular column entitled the "Wages of Spin" over at His diagnosis of the contemporary church is spot on. His wit and turn of a phrase is a delight to read. In these columns he has an ability to drive home a point with a bit of light heartedness. In some respects, Trueman is like a prophet of old, he has an ability to see the problem he may use wit, parable, and clever phrase but he has this uncanny ability to stand square in the street and shout "the emperor has no clothes." To read him is to take your medicine, maybe it has something to do with his English wit.

I'm sure Trueman would agree that we should read Owen first. But at least somewhere in there, (not second, but down on your list) check out his column.

THERE is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books...This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul- or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself. Now this seems to me topsy-turvy...Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook-even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it...

Go read Owen, but do it somewhere quiet and read him very slowly, perhpaps with pen and paper in hand. The kind of reading it takes to read Owen requires discipline. I have in the past sat down and picked him up for "light evening reading," often while my children watch a bit of TV (or I have it own for who knows what reason). This does no justice to Owen. One does not sit down at a banquet table with the TV on in the other room, you cannot serve two masters, you will hate the one and love the other. Owen is a banquet table and to feast you must be sitting at the table, knife in one hand, fork in the other and a napkin on your lap. If your attention is elsewhere you will miss savoring the meat that has been thrust onto your plate.

Want to know more about John Owen? Check out this websight:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Church History Lectures

Nothing fancy today, just want to point out two lectures from one of my former Westminster Professors. Carl Trueman is both a churchman and a scholar. He gave some great thoughts on church history and its value for the church today.

The first lecture talks about the early church fathers and is quite helpful. The second deals more with the Reformation. There are a lot of helpful things for the church today in these lectures. I particularly enjoyed what he said about confessions and catechisms in the second lecture. I recommend these lectures to everyone.

There is a lot that we in the contemporary church should be learning from Church History. We have this preoccupation in our day with the "new" but the church universal is ancient. There is a faith handed down "once for all" and while in some ways the church today will look different, we must hear the past, not just pillage the past. This upcoming year at my church, I want to encourage my people, alone with their Bible reading and study, to familiarize themselves with church history. When we understand the issues of the past we begin to understand how to address the present. We find out what issues should be most important. Many of the questions we ask today are so self-centered and betray a youthful arrogance. The issues we fight over in the church are petty (pews or chairs) compared to the issues people divided over in the past (the nature of Christ's deity (Arian vs. Nicea/Athanasius)). How did the church conduct itself in the past and how should that influence the present?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Warfield on the Catechism

B.B. Warfield (left) tells this story about D.L. Moody (below):

An anecdote told of Dwight L. Moody will illustrate the value to the religious life of having been taught these forms of truth. He was staying with a Scottish friend in London, but suppose we let the narrator tell the story. "A youngman had come to speak come to speak to Mr. Moody about religious things. He was in difficulty about a number of points, among the rest about prayer and natural laws. 'What is prayer?," he said, 'I can't tell what you mean by it!' They were in the hall of a large London house. Before Moody could answer, a child's voice was heard singing on the stairs. It was that of a little girl of nine or ten, the daughter of their host. She came running down the stairs and paused as she saw strangers sitting in the hall. 'Come here, Jenny,' her father said, 'and tell this gentelman "What is prayer."' Jenny did not know what had been going on, but she quite understood that she was now called upon to say her Catechism. So she drew up, and folderd her hands in front of her, like a good little girl who was going to 'say her questions,' and she said in her clear childish voice: 'Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.' 'Ah!' That's the Catechism!' Moody said, 'thank God for that Catechism.'"

Qtd. from B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, I.382-83.

To that I want to add "Amen." I have two little girls who are just the loves of my life (along with their beautiful mom), we also have one on the way, which they tell me is probably a girl. I can't think of anything better to do with my daughters then to train them up in the LORD through reading God's Word, praying with them and study the Catechism.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chrysostom on Heaven

In Chrysostom's exposition of the Lord's prayer, he says the following:

For He did not at all say, “Thy will be done” in me, or in us, but everywhere on the earth; so that error may be destroyed, and truth implanted, and all wickedness cast out, and virtue return, and no difference in this respect be henceforth between heaven and earth.

Is Chysostom denying that heaven and earth are distinct places? Is he following some sort of "integrated view" that we have in a previous series critique of Doug Pagitt, a leader in the emergent church? Pagitt argues for an overrealized eschatology that denies the "vertical eschatology" of the Bible where heaven and earth are distinct places. We shall argue that Chrysostom does not deny the basic distinction between heaven and earth. Yet Chrysostom's ethics do seem to have an "already" aspect to them without denying the distinction between heaven and earth.
(1) We begin by examining Chrysostom's exposition in context. Here is what Chrysostom says:
He teaches, moreover, to make our prayer common, in behalf of our brethren also. For He saith not, “my Father, which art in Heaven,” but, “our Father,” offering up his supplications for the body in common, and nowhere looking to his own, but everywhere to his neighbor’s good...When therefore He hath reminded us of this nobility, and of the gift from above, and of our equality with our brethren, and of charity; and when He hath removed us from earth, and fixed us in Heaven; let us see what He commands us to ask after this. Not but, in the first place, even that saying alone is sufficient to implant instruction in all virtue. For he who hath called God Father, and a common Father, would be justly bound to show forth such a conversation, as not to appear unworthy of this nobility, and to exhibit a diligence proportionate to the gift. Yet is He not satisfied with this, but adds, also another clause, thus saying, “Hallowed be Thy name.” Worthy of him who calls God Father, is the prayer to ask nothing before the glory of His Father, but to account all things secondary to the work of praising Him. For “hallowed” is glorified. For His own glory He hath complete, and ever continuing the same, but He commands him who prays to seek that He may be glorified also by our life. Which very thing He had said before likewise, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Later in the expostion:

From beneath, out of the heart, draw forth a voice, make thy prayer a mystery. Seest thou not that even in the houses of kings all tumult is put away, and great on all sides is the silence? Do thou also therefore, entering as into a palace,—not that on the earth, but what is far more awful than it, that which is in heaven,—show forth great seemliness. Yea, for thou art joined to the choirs of angels, and art in communion with archangels, and art singing with the seraphim. And all these tribes show forth much goodly order, singing with great awe that mystical strain, and their sacred hymns to God, the King of all. With these then mingle thyself, when thou art praying, and emulate their mystical order....

Chrysostom sees us in our prayers entering heaven, which is greater than entering a house of a king here on earth.

“After this manner, therefore, pray ye,” saith He: “Our Father, which art in heaven.” See how He straightway stirred up the hearer, and reminded him of all God’s bounty in the beginning. For he who calls God Father, by him both remission of sins, and taking away of punishment, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and adoption, and inheritance, and brotherhood with the Only-Begotten, and the supply of the Spirit, are acknowledged in this single title. For one cannot call God Father, without having attained to all those blessings. Doubly, therefore, doth He awaken their spirit, both by the dignity of Him who is called on, and by the greatness of the benefits which they have enjoyed. But when He saith, “in Heaven,” He speaks not this as shutting up God there, but as withdrawing him who is praying from earth, and fixing him in the high places, and in the dwellings above.

Chrysostom sees the prayer entering heaven, where God Himself dwells. This seems to be in some sort of spiritual sense through our communion but not a denial that heaven is a separate place. Rather it is this place we enter, as our spirit is awakened.

For because He had said thus, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” but was discoursing to men encompassed with flesh, and subject to the necessities of nature, and incapable of the same impassibility with the angels:—while He enjoins the commands to be practised by us also, even as they perform them; He condescends likewise, in what follows, to the infirmity of our nature... For ye must long, saith He, for heaven, and the things in heaven; however, even before heaven, He hath bidden us make the earth a heaven and do and say all things, even while we are continuing in it, as having our conversation there; insomuch that these too should be objects of our prayer to the Lord. For there is nothing to hinder our reaching the perfection of the powers above, because we inhabit the earth; but it is possible even while abiding here, to do all, as though already placed on high.

Notice that this applies to while we are living here, on earth, which is different than ‘on high’. We do it as though we are placed on high, although we are not yet ‘on high’ (e.g. in heaven).

Seest thou how He hath taught us also to be modest, by making it clear that virtue is not of our endeavors only, but also of the grace from above? And again, He hath enjoined each one of us, who pray, to take upon himself the care of the whole world. For He did not at all say, “Thy will be done” in me, or in us, but everywhere on the earth; so that error may be destroyed, and truth implanted, and all wickedness cast out, and virtue return, and no difference in this respect be henceforth between heaven and earth. “For if this come to pass,” saith He, “there will be no difference between things below and above, separated as they are in nature; the earth exhibiting to us another set of angels.

The grace to do these things comes from heaven above. He does see us obeying here on earth, but if we do we will make it like above (heaven). We will "exhibit" another sense of angels. Chrysostom elsewhere sees the angels as dwelling in heaven and without earthly passions. He sees us being able to do the same here on earth if we obey. This is not a denial that heaven is a place but clearly does see what we would call an "already" aspect to his eschatology. It is precisely because heaven and earth are distinct in his worldview, that Chrysostom sees us being to emulate here "below" the life of heaven "above".

Even with this hope of obedience in the present life to obey on earth as God is obeyed and His will is done in heaven, Chrysostom is quite clear that heaven and earth are distinct places.

(2)While Chrysostom does have “present” aspects of the kingdom, for example: he calls the church heaven in some places. And we experience the present realities of the kingdom and heaven; He also very clearly distinguishes heaven and earth as separate places.
Notice the distinction between heaven as “there” and earth as “here”. While we clearly enjoy in the present the benefits of heaven (here):
[3.] Here we must apply our minds attentively, and consider the Apostolic wisdom; for again he shows the difference of the Priesthood. “Who” (he says) “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” What are the heavenly things he speaks of here? The spiritual things. For although they are done on earth, yet nevertheless they are worthy of the Heavens. For when our Lord Jesus Christ lies slain [as a sacrifice], when the Spirit is with us, when He who sitteth on the right hand of the Father is here, when sons are made by the Washing, when they are fellow-citizens of those in Heaven, when we have a country, and a city, and citizenship there, when we are strangers to things here, how can all these be other than “heavenly things”? For in the former place after saying, “according to the power of an endless life” ( Heb. vii. 16 ), he then said that “there is a disannulling of the commandment going before” ( Heb. vii. 18 ); and then after that, he set forth something great, saying, “by which we draw nigh unto God.” ( Heb. vii. 19.) And in this place, after leading us up into Heaven, and showing that instead of the temple, we have Heaven, and that those things were types of ours, and having by these means exalted the Ministration [of the New Covenant], he then proceeds suitably to exalt the priesthood. Yea, verily. And whence does it appear that [the first Covenant] came to an end? He showed it indeed also from the Priest, but now he shows more clearly by express words that it has been cast out. But how is it “upon better promises”? For how, tell me, can earth and heaven be equal? But do thou consider, how he speaks of promises there [in that other covenant] also, that thou mayest not bring this charge against it. For there also, he says “a better hope, by which we draw nigh unto God” ( Heb. vii. 19 ), showing that a Hope was there also; and in this place “better promises,” hinting that there also He had made promises.

Chrysostom speaks of heaven being a dwelling place:
Paradise was entrusted to us, and we were shown unworthy to dwell even there, yet He hath exalted us to heaven. In the first things we were found unfaithful, and He hath committed to us greater; we could not refrain from a single tree, and He hath provided for us the delights above; we kept not our place in Paradise, and He hath opened to us the doors of heaven.

Thus, they learned that there is a Son of God, and that God has a Son equal with Himself in dignity (John v. 17–20); they learned that there will be a resurrection (Matt. xvii. 9); that when He ascended He sat on the right hand of God (Luke xxii. 69); and what is still more stupendous, that Flesh is seated in heaven, and adored by Angels, and that He will come again (Mark xvi. 19); they learned what is to take place in the judgment (Matt. xvi. 27); learned that they shall then sit and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke xxi. 27); learned that the Jews would be cast out, and in their stead the Gentiles should come in (Matt. xix. 28)...

(in the context Chrysostom is expounding why the angels had to tell the disciples Jesus went into heaven; eyes could not see that he went into heaven so the angels had to tell him. This only makes sense if heaven is a place distinct from earth:)

Inasmuch, however, as the sight of their eyes even here was not all-sufficient; for in the Resurrection they saw the end, but not the beginning, and in the Ascension they saw the beginning, but not the end: because in the former it had been superfluous to have seen the beginning, the Lord Himself Who spake these things being present, and the sepulchre showing clearly that He is not there; but in the latter, they needed to be informed of the sequel by word of others: inasmuch then as their eyes do not suffice to show them the height above, nor to inform them whether He is actually gone up into heaven, or only seemingly into heaven, see then what follows. That it was Jesus Himself they knew from the fact that He had been conversing with them (for had they seen only from a distance, they could not have recognized Him by sight), but that He is taken up into Heaven the Angels themselves inform them. Observe how it is ordered, that not all is done by the Spirit, but the eyes also do their part. But why did “a cloud receive Him?” This too was a sure sign that He went up to Heaven... And He did not merely say, “I go,” lest they should again grieve, but He said, “I send the Spirit” (John xvi. 5, 7); and that He was going away into heaven they saw with their eyes. O what a sight they were granted! “And while they looked stedfastly,” it is said, “toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven”—they used the expression “This” demonstratively, saying, “this Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall thus”—demonstratively, “in this way”—“come in like manner as ye have seen Him going into heaven.” (v. 10, 11.)... Moreover the Angels did not say, ‘whom you have seen taken up,’ but, “going into heaven:” ascension is the word, not assumption; the expression “taken up,” belongs to the flesh. For the same reason they say, “He which is taken up from you shall thus come,” not, “shall be sent,” but, “shall come. He that ascended, the same is he also that descended” (Eph. iv. 10).

More on the ascension into the place of heaven. Again it is the notion that heaven is the specialized dwelling place of God (without denying omnipresence):

For the thing required in the first instance was this, that it should be believed that He was risen, and ascended into heaven. As then the point on which Christ himself most insisted was, to have it known that He was come from the Father, so is it this writer’s principal object to declare, that Christ was risen from the dead, and was received up into Heaven, and that He went to God, and came from God.

Christ's flesh went into heaven; note the continuing incarnation in heaven. Notice that he speaks of "any place" and he refers to "heaven...or upon earth", heaven is clear a place distinct from earth:

He inhabits this tabernacle for ever, for He clothed Himself with our flesh, not as again to leave it, but always to have it with Him. Had not this been the case, He would not have deemed it worthy of the royal throne, nor would He while wearing it have been worshiped by all the host of heaven, angels, archangels, thrones, principalities, dominions, powers. What word, what thought can represent such great honor done to our race, so truly marvelous and awful? What angel, what archangel? Not one in any place, whether in heaven, or upon earth. For such are the mighty works of God, so great and marvelous are His benefits, that a right description of them exceeds not only the tongue of men, but even the power of angels.

Speaking of Daniel, and our unworthiness to be like him, there is the reference to the distance between heaven and earth, it is just a passing reference, but he takes this worldview so much for granted that he can speak of the distance between them.

He was in the den for God’s sake, and yet he counted himself unworthy of His remembrance, and of being heard. Yet we though daring [to commit] innumerable pollutions, and being of all men most polluted, if we be not heard at our first prayer, draw back. Truly, great is the distance between them and us, as great as between heaven and earth, or if there be any greater.

Notice what He says about the kingdom, in despising the earth and thinking of heaven. They are clearly distinct. Notice the distiction between the things "here" offered by men and "eternal life" followed by the contrast between heaven and earth:
To teach us to despise worldly dignities, and to show us that He needed nothing on earth. For He who chose all things mean, both mother and house and city and nurture and attire would not afterwards be made illustrious by things on earth. The things which (He had) from heaven were glorious and great, angels, a star, His Father loudly speaking, the Spirit testifying, and Prophets proclaiming Him from afar; those on earth were all mean, that thus His power might the more appear. He came also to teach us to despise the things of the world, and not be amazed or astonished by the splendors of this life, but to laugh them all to scorn, and to desire those which are to come. For he who admires things which are here, will not admire those in the heavens. Wherefore also He saith to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world” ( c. xviii. 36 ), that He may not afterwards appear to have employed mere human terror or dominion for the purpose of persuasion. Why then saith the Prophet, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass”? ( Zech. ix. 9.) He spake of that Kingdom which is in the heavens, but not of this on earth; and on this account Christ saith, “I receive not honor from men.” ( c. v. 41.)... In a word, if thou wilt desire glory, desire it, but let it be the glory immortal, for that is exhibited on a more glorious stage, and brings greater profit. For the men here bid thee be at charges to please them, but Christ, on the contrary, giveth thee an hundredfold for what thou givest Him, and addeth moreover eternal life. Which of the two then is better, to be admiredon earth, or in heaven? by man, or by God? to your loss, or to your gain? to wear a crown for a single day, or for endless ages?

(3) Notice how with respect to ethics, living in this earth actually has heaven in view. He says the following about treasures in heaven be saved up in distinction from that which is for this earth. Notice the language of our journey to heaven in distinction from the riches upon earth:
Let us store up righteousness in the heavens. Instead of riches upon earth, let us collect treasures impregnable, treasures which can accompany us on our journey to heaven, which can assist us in our peril, and make the Judge propitious at that hour. Whom may we all have gracious unto us, both now and at that day, and enjoy with much confidence the good things prepared in the heavens for those who love Him as they ought, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
(4) Chrysostom does the very thing that Pagitt says in unorthodox. Pagitt refuses to speak of people in heaven and hell and talk about them as places or “wheres”. This is unorthodox. Chrysostom does exactly the opposite of Pagitt. He is speaking of one of the Roman emperors, Julian. Julian is in Hades and Christ is in heaven. He clearly sees them as places. In the interview, when asked "where" Pagitt said this would be Platonic, Chrysostom clearly describes them as "where" and distinct places where these guys are now, respectively:

What then do the deeds say? Christ said that it was easier for heaven and earth to be destroyed, than for any of his words to fail. Luke xvi. 17. The emperor contradicted these words, and threatened to destroy his decrees. Where then is the emperor who threatened these things? He is perished and is corrupted, and is now in Hades, awaiting the inevitable punishment. But where is Christ who uttered these decrees? In Heaven, on the right hand of the Father, occupying the highest throne of glory; where are the blasphemous words of the Emperor, and his unchastened tongue? They are become ashes, and dust and the food of worms. Where is the sentence of Christ? It shines forth by the very truth of the deed, receiving its lustre from the issue of the events, as from a golden column. And yet the emperor left nothing undone, when about to raise war against us, but used to call prophets together, and summon sorcerers, and everything was full of demons and evil spirits.

There is a clear distinction between heaven and earth in Chrysostom. This continues throughout Chrysostom’s writings. A simple search will affirm this. The texts I have cited are not exhaustive merely representative. The texts you quoted about heaven being here and now are much the same pattern we see in other places, for example Jonathan Edwards’ “Heaven is a World of Love”, Christians can speak of present aspects of the kingdom, particularly in love and ethics without denying in the slightest that heaven is a place separate from the earth. Just this introductory reading of these quotes of Chrysostom show that he does not deny that heaven is a separate “place”. Pagitt does deny this—and what he says is a problem, particularly if he claims to be an orthodox Christian.

While there are clearly present aspects of the kingdom for Chrysostom, it is not to the extent that heaven and earth are not distinct places. In his thought they quite clearly are. There is no such this as the "integrated way" either in Hebraic thought of the first century or in Chrysostom's thought. There is no "holism" that Pagitt advocates. There clearly remains the distinction of places with respect to "heaven" and "earth" in Chrysostom's thought.

Thankful to whom?

Like many pastors, I spoke last night at a thanksgiving eve service. I spoke at Psalm 111. I talked quite personally about how I am often not thankful enough. I do not marvel enough at the works of God or think about his wonder.
I started some of the my thoughts from Romans 1:21:

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
I pointed out that the person who doesn't believe in a personal God has no one to really thank. They thank people and have a warm feeling of 'thanks' but it is impersonal and void. It is really a pride in self. I pointed out how often I in my sin thank, but secretly reserve a bit of "I earned this" or "I deserve this".
I made the point that our whole life is to be about thanking God. We are created to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." So often we fail to ponder the works of God. But it is the height of impeity and ungodliness, to deny true thanksgiving to God.
Some of my thoughts were sparked by finding this quote over at Jollyblogger:

The οὐχ ηὐχαρίστησαν, “were not thankful,” is not to be understood as a kind of standard formality (as could the earlier epistolary use; see on 1:8). In contrast here Paul is obviously thinking more in terms of thanksgiving as characteristic of a whole life, as the appropriate response of one whose daily experience is shaped by the recognition that he stands in debt to God, that his very life and experience of living is a gift from God (4 Ezra 8.60); cf. Kuss. In Paul’s perspective this attitude of awe (the fear of the Lord) and thankful dependence is how knowledge of God should express itself. But human behavior is marked by an irrational disjunction between what manknows to be the true state of affairs and a life at odds with that knowledge. This failure to give God his due and to receive life as God’s gift is Paul’s way of expressing the primal sin of humankind.

[Dunn, J. D. G. (2002). Vol. 38A: Word Biblical Commentary : Romans 1-8. Word Biblical Commentary (59). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]
Today, as if I needed another illustration, I found this article from John Piper. I dare say it is a must read. READ IT. Print it a tuck it away. Take Heed! He responds to atheist Christopher Hitchens and liberal Bishop Spong, their theology (or lack thereof) leaves them with no one and even no need for thanksgiving. It is the height of ungodliness expoused. Here are some juicy quotes:

Hitchens said that those of us who believe in the God of Christianity are “condemned to live in this posture of gratitude, permanent gratitude, to an unalterable dictatorship in whose installation we had no say."

Quoting Spong:

the traditional understanding of the cross of Christ has become inoperative on every level. As I have noted previously, a rescuing deity results in gratitude, never in expanded humanity. Constant gratitude, which the story of the cross seems to encourage, creates only weakness, childishness and dependency.”


You say this “constant gratitude” produces “childishness.” Not really. Children do not naturally say thank you. They come into the world believing that the world owes them everything they want. You have to drill “thank you” into the selfish heart of a child. Feeling grateful and saying it often is a mark of remarkable maturity. We have a name for people who don’t feel thankful for what they receive. We call them ingrates. And everyone knows they are acting like selfish children. They are childish. No, Bishop Spong, God wants us to grow up into mature, thoughtful, wise, humble, thankful people. The opposite is childish.

In fact the opposite is downright cranky. C. S. Lewis, before he was a Christian, really disliked the message of the Bible that we should thank and praise God all the time. Then everything changed. What he discovered was not that praising and thanking made people childish, but that it made them large-hearted and healthy. He said, ‘The humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.’ That is my experience. When I am ungrateful, I am selfish and immature. When I am overflowing with gratitude I am healthy, other-oriented, servant-minded, Christ-exalting, and joyful.


You both seem to assume that the affection of gratitude is puerile and unsatisfying—something we need to grow out of if we would be deeply joyful and useful people. Presumably you feel that way because, in your experience, being self-sufficient and being thanked is more satisfying than feeling dependent and thankful. I have tasted this pleasure you seem to prefer. It is the pleasure of power—the pleasure of being above others so that they must give you thanks rather than the other way around.

If we really want to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, we will give thanks. What a perverted day we live in where black becomes white and evil becomes good. Thanksgiving to God is "bad" and "weak". We have become Nebuchadnezzars who will not yield to God, but we cry up to heaven: "I am the greatest, I will not bend my knee" We think we have built our life with our power and our might, our houses, fancy cars, stable jobs, economic prosperity, and most of all the force of will and strength of our personalities.
Angels and ministers of grace, defend us. Dear Lord, enable us as your people to humble ourselves.

2 Chronicles 7:14 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...